The Truth About Cars » Elon Musk The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:25:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Elon Musk Tesla May Soon Make EV Patents Available To All Tue, 10 Jun 2014 10:00:47 +0000 tesla-model-x

Ever wanted your own Tesla, but didn’t have the thousands of dollars to order one? The automaker could soon make your dream possible by providing the patents to anyone who wants to make their own Tesla-based EV.

Autoblog Green reports CEO Elon Musk is considering making the patents to his EV tech freely available for anyone to use as a way to expand the EV market. Musk remarked during the United Kingdom market introduction of the RHD Model S that he didn’t just “want to cut a path through the jungle” only to lay out mines behind him, but did want “to write something so that [he could] articulate it properly and explain the reasoning for the decision” prior to freeing up the patents.

As for when such an announcement would occur, Tesla had “nothing further at this point” to say. Musk has freely distributed technology in the past to any and all interested parties, including the automaker’s Supercharger, and the Hyperloop rapid transit system.

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Musk: Tesla Will Build Cars In China Within Next Few Years Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:00:56 +0000 Model S - Tesla Motors China

Though Tesla is now just delivering new vehicles to China, CEO Elon Musk predicts his company will build luxury electric vehicles in the burgeoning market within the next three to four years.

Bloomberg reports the move to localized production would allow the automaker to sell their wares while also avoiding China’s 25 percent import tariff. Right now, a new Model S retails for $118,000 in Beijing due to VAT, shipping and import duties, compared to $71,000 in Los Angeles. Musk hopes to qualify the Model S for local subsidies to help offset costs in much the same way the luxury EV sedan receives federal tax credits back in the United States.

In addition, Tesla is expanding its Supercharger network to China, with Beijing and Shanghai among the first cities to join. No word yet as to how much the automaker is investing in the expansion.

A number of challenges lay ahead for Tesla’s move into the market, including slow adoption of electric vehicles among Chinese consumers and lack of a robust infrastructure, as well the loss of China general manager of operations Kingston Chang prior to the automaker’s entry. That said, Tesla plans to increase overall global sales 56 percent this year, moving 35,000 EVs out of the showroom in so doing.

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QOTD: Toyota, Not Tesla, As A Force Of Disruption Fri, 28 Feb 2014 20:11:12 +0000 450x298x1488276_10151952273333579_659848810_n-450x298.jpg.pagespeed.ic.WC5A2hrjb7

Writing in Bloomberg View, former EIC Ed Niedermeyer has published a crtical essay of Tesla, albeit one with a fresh angle: Toyota, one of Tesla’s main automotive partners, is in fact the true force of disruption in the automotive world.

Although Niedermeyer touches mainly on Toyota’s efforts in manufacturing and quality (namely, kaizen),  which disrupted Detroit’s stranglehold on the automotive market, other improvements come to mind. Lexus disrupted German dominance of the luxury segment, while the Prius is the world’s most successful hybrid car. Even if the company is anathema to enthusiasts, Toyota’s contributions to the broader automotive world are immense.

On the other hand, Niedermeyer takes a much more grounded (or dim) view of Tesla – you won’t find any appeals to a utopian society of autonomous EVs, as one analyst touted this past week. According to Ed

“Auto industry success is a marathon, not a sprint … and at current volumes, Tesla is barely walking.”

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Tesla S Goes AWD, Comes With Cheaper Batteries, Upgraded Firmware Mon, 10 Feb 2014 16:03:58 +0000 tesla-model-s-03

During a Tesla townhall meeting at the automaker’s European headquarters in Amsterdam, CEO Elon Musk announced to owners that an all-wheel drive version of the vaunted S would arrive in showrooms by the early months of 2015 at the latest.

The arrival comes on the heels of the Model X SUV, which will come standard with the AWD system when it makes its showroom debut in 2015. The system utilizes two electric motors, each driving the front or rear wheels while pushing the electric SUV from 0 to 60 in under 5 seconds for the Performance option. Power for both the X and S models will come from higher-capacity battery options, eventually including those made with cheaper batteries from Tesla’s “giga factory.”

Planned to be the largest battery plant in the world, the factory will be built in the United States sometime soon, and will be able to recycle older battery units in-house with refitting visiting Teslas with newer packs. The eventual goal is to drive battery costs down by as much as 30 percent to 40 percent while pushing 30 gigawatt-hours of production capacity, just in time for Tesla’s $30,000/200-mile EV debut in the near future. More information will be announced in March, when Musk will also divulge the location of the new factory.

For current owners, a firmware upgrade will be available in a few weeks: Version 6.0 adds real-time traffic data, more control over ride height and suspension settings, and other improvements. Down the road, owners can also upgrade their seats for greater comfort, while future owners of S and X models will have those seats as standard equipment.

Finally, owners will be able to go coast-to-coast thanks to Tesla’s Supercharger stations, whose transcontinental network was completed recently — with a transcontinental road trip to celebrate the occasion — and is now adding capacity at a rate of five of the charging stations coming online per week. The chargers are expected to recharge batteries at a max of 135 kW current.

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Elon Musk: Model X Will Be AWD Only and Priced “Slightly Higher” Than Model S Tue, 05 Nov 2013 12:00:52 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

At the opening of his company’s London store, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk had some comments about the company’s upcoming falcon-winged crossover, the Model X. He said that it will offered only in an all wheel drive configuration that features electric motors in both the front and back of the car, and that it’s starting price will be slightly more than that of the Model S, which starts at $60,000.

The Model X’s price will be very similar to the Model S. It might be slightly higher, but… I can’t imagine that it will be… It’s probably going to be a slightly higher starting price because the Model X will only be offered as all-wheel drive. It will be dual motor, all-wheel drive.

[The relevant remarks start at ~24:00 of the video]

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Analyst to Apple CEO, Chairman: Buy Tesla Tue, 29 Oct 2013 15:16:54 +0000 Tesla-Model-S. Photo courtesy

It’s one thing for Tesla Motors to be the Apple of motoring. It’s another for Apple to be the Apple of motoring. The solution, according to one analyst: Apple should buy Tesla to remain profitable long after the gold rush of smartphones and tablets has disappeared from the rear view mirror.

CNN Money reports an analyst for the German investment bank Berenberg, one Adnaan Ahmad, has penned an open letter to both Apple CEO Tim Cook and chairman Arthur Levinson, strongly suggesting they pay a visit to Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s high-tech lab — no doubt interrupting his Lotus submarine studynot with a demand for Doug Field’s return to One Infinite Loop, but with a Halliburton briefcase full of cash. At least five of them.

Why? According to Ahmad, purchasing the EV automaker down the road would allow Apple to obtain the type of growing revenues that will keep the computer maker in the green for a long time to come, something that no iPhone or iPad can guarantee once the age of hipster gadgetry draws to a close. Ahmad also believes that Apple’s habit of disrupting developing markets, such as telephony and tablet computing, is just what the doctor ordered for the auto industry in the United States, leading to a much more rapid transition to hybrid and electric vehicles of all shapes and colors.

As for Musk’s role, Ahmad believes Cook and Levinson “could strike up a partnership [with Musk] and obtain a new iconic partner to lead Apple’s innovation drive,” invoking the spirit of late Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs while imploring the current guard to go outside of the box once again.

And if Cook and Levinson don’t heed his words? Then, per Ahmad, “the key debate will always be about [Apple's] ability to sustain these abnormal margins in [their] iPhone business.”

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Former Apple VP To Aid Vehicle Development At Tesla Fri, 25 Oct 2013 14:16:44 +0000 tesla-model-sa_rIt seems as of late that Tesla is becoming to cars what Apple already is to computing, smartphones, digital music players and tablets. Thus, it should be as no surprise that the automaker has brought aboard former Apple vice president of Mac hardware engineering Doug Field to help them develop “insanely great” new vehicles.

“Doug has demonstrated the leadership and technical talent to develop and deliver outstanding products, including what are widely considered the best computers in the world,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a press release. Musk went further to state that the future of the automaker is dependent upon engineering talents — such as the kind Field would bring to the table — that can help bring “the most innovative, technologically advanced vehicles in the world” to the masses, especially the kind that will be sold for $35,000 at the nearest Tesla boutique in the near future.

Field’s latest foray in the tech world marks a return to the automotive industry: His career began with Ford as an engineer, then a turn as CTO for Segway before segueing to One Infinite Loop in 2008. From there, Field led development on the MacBook Air and Pro, and the iMac.

“Until Tesla came along, I had never seriously considered leaving Apple,” said Field in the same press release. “I started my career with the goal of creating incredible cars, but ultimately left the auto industry in search of fast-paced, exciting engineering challenges elsewhere. As the first high tech auto company in modern history, Tesla is at last an opportunity for me and many others to pursue the dream of building the best cars in the world-while being part of one of the most innovative companies in Silicon Valley.”

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Elon Musk: “A Fuel Cell Is So…” Wed, 23 Oct 2013 11:00:28 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

Speaking to Tesla enthusiasts at a Tesla service center in Germany, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk insisted that batteries made more sense for powering electric vehicles than hydrogen fuel cells, calling them “bullshit” and saying that hydrogen isn’t safe to use as an automotive fuel.

“Oh god, a fuel cell is so bulls**t. Hydrogen is suitable for the upper stage of rockets, but not for cars,” said Musk, not missing an opportunity to promote his SpaceX enterprise.

Musk was trying to get his audience to become evangelists for EVs and sustainable transportation to get people to see that electric vehicles are the next step beyond burning hydrocarbons. Getting on to the topic of hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells, the Tesla CEO insisted that the major automakers that were investigating hydrogen either as a fuel for combustion engines or with fuel cells for EVs were doing so strictly for marketing reasons.

Musk went on to lay out what he believes are technical reasons for batteries’ superiority to fuel cells, power density relative to mass and volume along with the fact that fuel cells are expensive. Then he got on to an explosive topic, the safety of carrying around a pressurized vessel filled with hydrogen. “Hydrogen is quite a dangerous gas. you know, it’s suitable for the upper stage of rockets, but not for cars,” he said.

The Tesla head was in Germany to help boost sales of the Model S, which have been slow. Hoping to sell 200 to 300 cars per week in Germany by the end of next year, Musk announced that the company was developing an “Autobahn tuning package” for the Model S that will be offered to existing and future owners, though he didn’t give many details beyond improved high-speed handling. It’s possible that the package would allow more high speed accelerations than the current Model S does before artificially limiting power to preserve the batteries. No word on whether that feature will just be available in Europe.

Germany has higher speeds and the faster you go the less range your EV will have, so Musk also announced that installations had begun for the first six of what will be a countrywide network of Tesla Supercharger stations. Totaling between 40 and 50 stations, nobody in Germany would have to drive more than 200 kilometers (124 miles) to find the next charge. Superchargers have also been upgraded from 120 kW to 135 kW with even greater outputs anticipated. Tesla also will be be building enough service centers to have 80% of the German population within 100 km (62 miles) of a Tesla service location.

Musk’s remarks begin at ~16:20 in the video above.

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Elon Musk Buys 007 Submarine, Will Attempt To Make It Functional Fri, 18 Oct 2013 13:42:45 +0000 800px-TSWLM-LotusEsprit

Elon Musk, the real-life Tony Stark of our times, has quite the extensive résumé: Founder of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors; billionaire investor of projects and businesses such as SolarCity and the preservation of Nikola Tesla’s lab; inventor of the Hyperloop rapid mass transit concept; 007 cosplayer…

Yes, you read that right: Musk is a huge fan of the man who loves his martinis shaken and his women to have double entendre naming schemes. So much so, in fact, that he now has one of Bond’s most awesome vehicles ever conceived.

In a double exclusive with our friends over at Jalopnik, the secret buyer of the Lotus Esprit Mk I-cum-submarine from the 1977 Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me” was Musk himself, who paid nearly $900,000 for the privilege of owning one of the most famous vehicles in the history of film, beating out another bidder in a duel worthy of a Bond film (or so we would hope). The star car — or, rather, the star submarine — was originally lost in storage limbo, then discovered, spruced up, and put up for auction by Canadian auction house RM Auctions in early September of this year.

Alas, Musk was a bit disappointed that all the Esprit did was look pretty and float, but since this is Musk we’re talking about (via Tesla’s PR department)…

It was amazing as a little kid in South Africa to watch James Bond in “The Spy Who Loved Me” drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button and have it transform into a submarine underwater. I was disappointed to learn that it can’t actually transform. What I’m going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real.

If his SpaceX can successfully dock with the International Space Station, and his Tesla can make EVs cool (the first was based off the Lotus Elise, no less), then Musk can make this impossible dream possible. We look forward to seeing his car arrive at San Diego Comic Con 2014 via Pacific Beach in all of its glory.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Virginia Allows Tesla To Establish Traditional Dealership Fri, 04 Oct 2013 15:16:49 +0000 "tesla

One week after we mused that electric carmaker Tesla would never be able to defeat current state laws prohibiting factory direct automobile sales and thus must join the franchised dealer model, the company proved us wrong thanks to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

According to Automotive News, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and, amazingly, the Virginia Automobile Dealer Association have come to an agreement to allow Tesla to open one dealership in the state. Tesla currently operates a order-taking outlet in a mall in Tysons Corner, a suburb of Washington, D.C., while their nearest service center is in Rockville, Maryland. Although details of the agreement are sealed, it is likely that Tesla will be allowed to build a full service store in the Tysons Corner area.

Tesla has been wrangling with the state for some time. Their request to open a dealership had previously been denied by the state’s DMV and the company was appealing the ruling in a county court. The next step is for the Virginia Motor Dealer Vehicle board to grant Tesla a business license.

Tesla had previously won approval to sell its vehicles in the state of New Hampshire but having a point near the nation’s capital is huge for the company’s exposure. Besides having near-perfect client demographics for the product, it affords CEO Elon Musk the opportunity to showcase his dealership to members of Congress, whom he is considering lobbying to pass a federal law allowing factory direct car sales to customers.

As this agreement has been in the works for some time, we cannot say if our editorial had any influence on the Virginia entities, but we cannot help but wonder if TTAC commenter and dealer apologist Ruggles, who posted a remarkable one hundred and seventy-four comments on our story last week, might have been in Richmond this week, wearing the lawmakers down until they caved.

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Editorial: Why Tesla Needs To Sell Cars Through The Franchised Dealer Network Fri, 27 Sep 2013 13:00:36 +0000  

 Red Tesla courtesy

Tesla founder Elon Musk recently announced that it was feasible to build a giant vacuum tube from Los Angeles to San Francisco and transport people the 400 miles between the two cities in 35 minutes. There is a better chance of this so-called “Hyperloop” ever happening than Musk being allowed to sell his electric vehicles directly to the public through his own stores in more than a handful of states. Musk must face reality and stop trying to change franchise dealer laws if he wants Tesla to sell cars through a dealer network that has a true presence in the marketplace. He must embrace the current system and start signing up existing stores.

Let us be clear: we are rooting for Tesla to succeed. The $70,000 to $100,000 Model S electric car is a ground-breaking automobile and has won about every award extant today. Musk is the darling of the analysts and the media, and who wouldn’t root for a man who is a combination of P.T. Barnum, Soichiro Honda and Bill Gates, producing the most politically correct green machine ever, and hates car dealers? What’s not to love?

I am also not shilling for automobile dealers, I simply do not see an alternative. Musk is trying to overturns state laws that prohibit manufacturers from selling cars directly to customers. Other carmakers, including Porsche and Ford, have tried and failed at this mission in the United States. Say what you will about American car dealers, but they have lobbied for and won state laws that will be nearly impossible to change. Musk has other pressing problems to occupy his time - possible battery shortages, and a nationwide charging network to establish – and even if he could build a dealer body, it would cost a half a billion dollars to construct and staff 100 dealerships.


Musk Courtesy


Musk wants to sell 40,000 cars a year worldwide by 2015. We say he can sell 80,000 annually in the US alone through established dealers, particularly with the lower priced X Model arriving in 2014. As Tesla’s units in operation grow, customers will start to have problems that the salaried kid in the Tesla kiosk at the mall and his service center down the street and a voice on the phone from Fremont will not be able to solve. Transaction prices will certainly drop and the fickle public may move on to other brands. Crises will occur, like this week’s possible first sudden-acceleration claim against the company. What if Tesla’s bold promise of a guaranteed future value of their cars start costing them $10,000 a unit? You need experienced car dealers to help take care of these problems, nurture the customers and move the iron.

Tesla vehicles need to be on sold on showrooms alongside other luxury makes. The company could choose to hook up with select dealers of the same brand, preferably Lexus, BMW or Mercedes-Benz, or simply choose the best dealership in each market in terms of having genuine long-term success in customer satisfaction. Being a new car company, they could write a dealer agreement with teeth, as Lexus did back in 1989, mandating facility and client handling standards. Musk will certainly have to share some of his 25% markup with the chosen stores which will be painful at first, but better than a factory parking lot full of unsold Teslas.

Used Tesla courtesy

Word came this week that Tesla has been quietly selling vehicles to rental car companies Hertz and Enterprise, indicating their retail sales may be softening and thus the need for dealerships to be established sooner rather than later.

Elon Musk must concentrate on what he does best and let car dealers do what they do best. Without a dealer network, Tesla is setting themselves up to fall short in important areas like after-sales service and distribution. While Musk currently has the tech-obsessed media wrapped around his pinky with talk of “disruption” and emissions-free motoring, few have examined the downsides of forgoing the traditional franchise dealer model. It’s one worth exploring.


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Tesla Surprises Analysts With Second Quarterly Profit – Depending How You Do The Math Thu, 08 Aug 2013 14:53:51 +0000 Robots

Defying analysts’ predictions that Tesla Motors would report a quarterly loss of $0.17 a share, the EV startup instead announced that it had a second quarter profit, after adjustments, of 20 cents a share, according to non-GAAP principles. On the news, Tesla stock went up 13% in after hours trading.

When using GAAP principles, Tesla posted a net loss of $30.5 million for the quarter. Revenue related to car sales dropped from the first quarter by over $150 million to $401 million, reflecting deferred revenue on financed vehicles. Last year for the second quarter Tesla posted revenue of $26.7 million and a $105.6 million loss.

On a non-GAAP basis, Tesla said second-quarter net income totaled $26 million, excluding special items and $100 million in gross profit with a gross profit margin of 22 percent. That gross profit does not include a lot of overhead items like r&d, and sales and administrative costs. With those factored in, Tesla said it had an operating loss of $12 million for the quarter.

Part of the company’s bottom line has to do with the sale of zero emissions credits to other car companies. In the 2nd quarter, Tesla sold $51 million worth of ZEV credits and an additional $18 million in “other regulatory credits.” The company said that it ended the first half of fiscal 2013 with $746 million in cash on hand, up from $214 million at the end of the first quarter and $210 million a year ago. Tesla also rolled its lease accounting into this quarter’s results, something not allowed under GAAP. That helped Tesla arrive at the profit that they’ve been touting.

Net income was up 70% from the first quarter to $26 million, on 5,150 deliveries to customers, in line with Tesla’s earlier announced 20K/yr production rate on the Model S. The company says that it increased production in the quarter by 20% to 500 Model S cars, so actually current production is closer to 25,000 annual units.

Tesla said that it will open “several more” dealerships in the next year, one of them being their first store in China. It’s not clear if that dealership will be factory owned or not. Export markets are currently a focus of activity at Tesla. Deliveries of the Model S to Europe began this week. If needed as they expand into new markets, Tesla says that production could exceed 40,000 cars by the end of next year. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the company getting Asian variants of the Model S ready, a right hand drive version for Japan and a Chinese model with an “executive back seat” instead of the “family back seat” used in other markets. Those cars will be on sale by the end of 2014

Tesla shares, which closed at $134.23 on Wednesday, went above $150 in after-hours trading following the news.

In other product news, Musk said that the next Tesla, a mass market sedan to be priced at $35,000 (without government subsidies), will have a 200 mile range. He also said that the company will be working with its suppliers as it ramps up production. “You can’t give people a car that’s 99 percent complete,” Musk said. “Some suppliers are not set up for volume production. We’re striving to become demand-limited, rather than production-limited.”

You can view the financial results (PDF) that included a Q&A session with Musk here.


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Will Thieves Target Tesla Battery Packs? Fri, 21 Jun 2013 14:24:56 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

While watching the video of Elon Musk demonstrating Tesla’s new battery swap mechanism that will be installed at the EV company’s ‘supercharger’ stations (Musk prefers to call them “Tesla stations”) I remembered something that Tom Wolfe wrote about air-cooled Volkswagens in his 1968 compilation, The Pumphouse Gang.

[A]ll up and down the coast from Los Angeles to Baja California kids can go to one of these beach towns and live the complete surfing life. They take off from home and get to the beach, and if they need a place to stay, well, somebody rents a garage for twenty bucks a month and everybody moves, girls and boys. Furniture it’s like one means, you know appropriates furniture from here and there. It’s like the Volkswagen buses a lot of kids now use as beach wagons instead of woodies. Woodies are old station wagons, usually Fords, with wooden bodies, from back before 1953. One of the great things about a Volkswagen bus is that one can exchange motors in about three minutes. A good VW motor exchanger can go up to a parked Volkswagen, and a few ratchets of the old wrench here and its up and out and he has a new motor. There must be a few nice old black panthers around wondering why their nice hubby-mommy VWs don’t’ run so good anymore — but — then — they — are — probably — puzzled — about — a — lot of things. Yes.

The reason why it’s so easy to steal a Beetle (or Bus) engine is that they’re mounted from underneath the car. Jack up the Bug, put a floor jack under the engine, remove the four bolts that hold the engine to the bellhousing on the transaxle, disconnect the throttle cable and fuel lines, and roll away the engine.

As you can see from the video, the Tesla S’ battery pack is also mounted on the underside of that car and I’m sure that a Tesla station’s battery swap machine isn’t the only way those batteries can be removed. Dealer mechanics must have the ability to remove and replace batteries as well, using conventional tools, lifts and hoists. I’m wondering what kinds of systems or technology Tesla has implemented in how their Model S battery pack is mounted and connected to the car in order to prevent battery theft. Otherwise, like the owners of Wolfe’s nice hubby-mommy VW’s, some Tesla S owners might come out to their cars to find that they don’t run so good anymore.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Tesla Confirms Battery Swap For Model S Tue, 18 Jun 2013 17:13:35 +0000 batteryswapTesla’s long-rumored battery swap technology will get its first reveal Thursday night, according to a Tweet from Elon Musk himself.

The Tesla battery swap project has been in the works for some time, with the Model S apparently having the capability for battery-swapping from the get-go. There are a few issues that come into question here; what kind of technology will be used to help swap a 1,200 pound battery in under 5 minutes? What level of automation will be used? How does this conflict (or complement) with the whole Supercharger network? We’ll have to wait until Thursday to find out.

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Tesla Wants To Build A Leaf Competitor Tue, 28 May 2013 18:34:35 +0000 2013-nissan-leaf-01-628-1357743465

Elon Musk is turning his sights towards the Nissan Leaf. The Tesla Motors founder says his ultimate goal is for a sub-$40,000 car that’s better than Nissan’s EV, and he’s hoping to make that happen within 4 years.

The Detroit News quotes Musk during a Bloomberg interview

“With the Model S, you have a compelling car that’s too expensive for most people,” he said. “And you have the Leaf, which is cheap, but it’s not great. What the world really needs is a great, affordable electric car. I’m not going to let anything go, no matter what people offer, until I complete that mission.”

The long-rumored mainstream Tesla product is being targeted for a 200-mile range.

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Elon Musk: Let’s Use The Term “Autopilot” Fri, 10 May 2013 16:02:07 +0000 He did other stuff too. Picture courtesy KinderTrauma

“Self-driving sounds like it’s going to do something you don’t want it to do. Autopilot is a good thing to have in planes, and we should have it in cars.”

According to Elon Musk, what we have here is… failure to market effectively.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg News, the man whose divorce rated a story on Jalopnik offered his opinions on the future of self-driving cars. The most notable talking points? First, Musk likes the idea of camera-based systems more than he likes a Google-style LIDAR scanning system. In a world where camera lenses never get dirty, this should work perfectly. In the real world, one suspects that the owner of said car will have to intervene fairly often. Better not turn away from the road while you’re reading the tenth book in the “50 Shades” series, ladies.

But that’s okay, because Musk doesn’t like the idea of a “self-driving” car. Better to call it “autopilot”, as noted in the above quote. Here, he has a genuine point. The early self-driving cars will almost certainly be incapable of operating effectively in mixed conditions without frequent and occasionally immediate assistance from the tool behind the wheel. If you look at these systems as “autopilots” — that is, something you use like cruise control in limited situations while remaining at least partially aware of what’s happening — rather than “self-driving” — which implies you can take a nap on the way to work — it makes more sense.

The problem comes when autopilot-level cars have to co-exist with an ever more ridiculous set of rules on distracted driving. What will the owner of the “autopiloted” car be permitted to do? Will he be forced by law to look forward and simply watch the wheels go round and round, just in case something happens that the car can’t handle? Can you imagine being forced to watch a car drive itself from Indianapolis to St. Louis? We’ll need the Clockwork Orange eyelid-grabbers for that, methinks. Or maybe you should just stop thinking about it and participate in mass transit. The government would prefer that, and if there’s no mass transit where you live, that’s a clue that you should leave, right?

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Analysis: Tesla Q1 2013 Results Thu, 09 May 2013 20:29:29 +0000 Tesla-Model-S. Photo courtesy

Tesla Motors, Inc. released its first quarter financial results yesterday, which featured a number of milestones for the auto maker. Among them, Tesla’s revenue rose 83% from the last quarter to $562 million, a record high for the company.

Tesla also posted the first ever profitable quarter in its history, with a net income of $11 million, or $0.10 on a per share basis. This large growth in revenue was largely aided by the fact that Tesla was able to recognize revenue on 4,900 out of the 5,000 Model S vehicles it managed to produce in the quarter. It is worth noting that $68 million, or 12% of Tesla’s revenue was earned through the sale of Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) credits to other automakers. Tesla notes in its letter to shareholders that they expect the sale of ZEV credits to decline in the future, and expect the amount to reach $0 by Q4 2013. Tesla’s move away from the sale these credits and towards growing the sale of their automobiles demonstrates their confidence in projected global demand of 30,000+ units annually. An improvement in their gross margin, which has moved up from 8% to 17%, is also an extremely important factor in their profitability.

One would expect that Tesla has settled down and is beginning to ramp up their production of the Model S while continuing to lower its costs through managing its supply chain and reaching economies of scale. After all, management reaffirmed its guidance of a gross margin of 25% for Q4 2013. In the Outlook section of the letter, Tesla explains that it expects increases in operating, research and development (R&D), and selling general and administrative expenses (SG&A).

Some of these costs may naturally rise in proportion to sales volumes. However, as Tesla fights an uphill battle to expand their gross margin, it cannot lose sight of controlling its fixed costs. Total Operating Expenses currently amount to 18% of sales. Any increase to this amount threatens to eat up any profitability that Tesla might achieve through an increase in gross margin. From a profitability standpoint, the ideal situation would be one in which Tesla could achieve its margin of 25% on its vehicles, while simultaneously taking advantage of its increase in production to achieve economies of scale and decrease operating expenses.

The most interesting line item on Tesla’s quarterly income statement is “Other Income.” Upon examining the statement solely on an operations level, one would notice that Tesla has posted a loss from operations of -$5.5 million. How could Tesla post a net income, yet be posting a deficit through its operations? One need only take a look at the line item “Other Income”, for a better picture. Other Income has a balance of $17 million, $11 million of which is from the elimination of a common stock warrant liability to the Department of Energy, and the remainder is from favorable foreign currency exchange impacts. Both of these items are irregular, specifically the liability elimination, in the fact that they will not likely happen year to year, and are not generated through the company’s regular operations. The liability elimination is also a non-cash item. To get a real sense of how Tesla performed, Other Income can be removed from the income statement (see Figure 1). The result is a net loss of $5.7 million for the quarter. It’s clear that there is still much work to be done before Tesla is truly profitable based on its operations. These types of irregular items cannot be relied upon to achieve profitability every quarter.


Figure 1(in millions)


Perhaps a more relevant dataset is Tesla’s non-GAAP figures. The non-GAAP figures, which are intend to be used by management for internal purposes, can sometimes more accurately reflect a company’s performance on the interim, without being hindered by stringent accounting regulations. Figure 2 displays Tesla’s reconciliation of Net Income from GAAP to non-GAAP.

Figure 2 (in millions)


The non-GAAP measure of Net Income is slightly higher than the GAAP reporting, at approximately $15 million. Non-GAAP starts with the GAAP reported income of $11 million. Notice how almost $11 million is subtracted from net income in “Change in fair value of warrant liability.” This represents the Department of Energy liability elimination mentioned earlier. What Tesla is doing here is effectively removing this amount from its GAAP net income, not unlike the similar calculation done above. Tesla has management has realized that this liability is a large contributor to its profits, and has removed it to create a figure more representative of its operational profitability.

The next item is stock-based compensation expense. This amount was originally included in “Total cost of revenues.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with this concept, an article by Ian Gow, an assistant professor of accounting information and management at Northwestern’s Kellog School of Management, explains it as stock options that are granted to employees. Gow explains that recently accounting standards have required companies to disclose stock-based compensation expenses, as Tesla has done by including it in cost of revenue. The article continues to elaborate that stock-based compensation expense is an area for managers to manipulate accounting data in order for them to reach their targets or benchmarks. The accounting for this type of expense becomes increasingly tricky when considering that it is a non-cash expense. While it is harder for management to toy around with this expense due to revisions to GAAP, Tesla has elected to add this expense back to their net income in its non-GAAP reporting. This is not an attempt to discredit the integrity of Tesla’s management, rather to illustrate the importance that non-GAAP figure must be taken with a grain of salt.

Regardless, Tesla has made huge strides in its earnings. Just last quarter (Q4 2012) Tesla posted a net loss of almost $90 million. Accountants and analysts can debate the significance of line items for eternity, the larger point being that of an upward trend for Tesla. In Q2 it will be interesting to see is Tesla can build on its profitability, or fall back into the red without the help of irregular account balances.

All figures taken from Tesla’s SEC Filing

Graeme Kreindler is an HBA Candidate at the Richard Ivey School of Business at The University of Western Ontario. 

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Did Tesla Take A Page From Hyundai’s Book? Tue, 07 May 2013 16:12:55 +0000 2013-Tesla-Model-S-front-3-1352910063631

As enthusiastic as I am about the actual product (when everyone was ready to crap all over Tesla based on some bad information, TTAC was one of the few publications to go to bat for the upstart auto maker), Elon Musk’s series of announcements, frequently couched in hyperbolic descriptions of their significance, are beginning to grate on me. Every week, Musk seems to descend from Mount Sinai bearing yet another set of tablets that promise to “disrupt” (to use a favorite term of Silicon Valley) the automotive landscape forever, yet end up being little more than a not-quite-a-lease program or some announcement about after-sales care.

A look through TTAC’s archives shows that Tesla has in fact cribbed some of their ideas from Hyundai. While Musk has endlessly touted that his pseudo-lease program will guarantee the value of the Model S, Hyundai has been making that same promise since April of 2011.

Meanwhile, Tesla’s service program, which Musk touts as the “world’s best” seems to have a lot in common with the one created by Hyundai for the Equus. Both involve having your car picked up from the location of your choice and exchanged with a loaner vehicle, ensuring that you never have to step foot in a smelly service department ever again.

Perhaps we’ll soon find out that Tesla overstated their mileage claims for the Model S, which would then allow us to really draw some parallels between the two companies. Oh, wait a minute…

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QOTD: Should Elon Musk Run The Show At GM? Wed, 01 May 2013 11:00:44 +0000

We don’t get enough good questions from the readers, and it’s a damn shame. Reader Steve Hofer sent us a great one via email; what if Elon Musk was running General Motors?

I was thinking about how Steve Jobs came from what was essentially a failed company with NeXT, to raise Apple from the dead. I imagined the possibility that GM would take over Tesla. Thinking of the Apple precedent, I imagined what if Elon Musk pulled a Steve Jobs and leveraged a board seat into effective control of the company. Assuming Elon became GM’s CEO, does he have what it takes to do a good job? Perhaps he does. I have some reasons.

(1) Elon is smarter than anyone at GM.

(2) He understands how to put together a critical path to implement very complex tasks, whether building an electric car or a private space program.

(3) He is not risk adverse.

(4) He is not tied to 19th or 20th century ideas.

(5) More traditional choices failed and will likely fail again.

Personally, I am not willing to take the Thomas Friedman-esque leap of logic that posits that a successful tech entrpeneur should be put in charge of America’s auto industry. Tesla and GM are as different as two car companies could possibly be, and who is to say that there isn’t somebody at GM that has an equally formidable intellect as Musk does. We don’t know for sure one way or another. In any case, there are plenty of commenters who have actually spent time working with (or for) GM who have a much better insight than I do. Have at it.

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All You Need To Know About The Tesla Lease Offer, From People Smarter Than I Am Wed, 03 Apr 2013 16:01:09 +0000

Yesterday’s Tesla “lease offer”, (which turned out to be Elon Musk’s “big announcement”) was a classic display of Tesla’s penchant for theatrics. On the surface, the move is a smart one; most customers in the large luxury sedan segment tend to lease their cars, so Tesla’s move is nothing out of the ordinary.

The 5 year lease program will allow customers to keep making payments on the car as a means of buying it outright, rather than the traditional balloon payment used by most auto makers. And, as Wired’s Damon Lavrinc notes, you could technically lease the car with nothing down.

Depending on where you live, the initial payment could be as low as … nothing. Tesla’s financial partners in the program, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, take the $7,500 federal tax credit offered to anyone who buys an electric vehicle, roll that into the state rebates and include it all as your down payment. In California, for example, that comes to $10,000.

Where it gets interesting is some of the numerical gymnastics that, according to Tesla’s True Cost To Own lease calculator, can leave you with a net lease cost of -$2,000. To find out how that happens, check out EV expert John Voelcker’s excellent take-down of Tesla’s leasing program. Rather than summarize and butcher it at TTAC, you might as well head straight to the source. It’s not to be missed. Especially if your time is worth $100/hour, as Musk thinks.

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Tesla To Pay Down DoE Loan In 5 Years Or Less Wed, 27 Feb 2013 17:27:45 +0000

Tesla announced plans to pay down their $465 million dollar Department of Energy loan in 5 years or less, as Tesla seeks to achieve profitability.

Automotive News reported on comments made by Tesla CEO Elon Musk while attending a conference in the Washington, D.C. area

That loan currently must be repaid within 10 years, Musk said. Tesla will “codify” a commitment with DOE to reimburse the government within five years or less, Musk added, after declaring that the loan guarantee should be “viewed as a success.”

In addition to Tesla, Ford, Nissan and Fisker all received loans under the $25-billion dollar program Advanced Vehicle Technology Manufacturing program, which was introduced by President George W. Bush.

Ford and Nissan’s loans are worth $5.9 billion and $1.4 billion respectively, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that he expects to be paid back in full by the auto makers, despite other loans that “…may be at risk”. According to Tesla’s 10-Q filing for Q4 2012, the company made its first loan payment of $12.7 million on schedule, with the next payment due in March.

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New York Times Public Editor Throws Reporter Under The Electric Bus Tue, 19 Feb 2013 16:42:19 +0000  

The New York Times had their public editor (think ombudsman) publish a response to the whole “Dead Tesla’ fiasco (summary by our own Dan Wallach here), and it is far from kind to reporter John Broder.

While Public Editor Margaret Sullivan defends Broder against Tesla founder Elon Musk’s claims that he “faked” his test drive, she does just about everything else possible to impugn his journalistic cred. Witness Sullivan’s epic qualification when sticking up for her writer

My own findings are not dissimilar to the reader I quote above, although I do not believe Mr. Broder hoped the drive would end badly. I am convinced that he took on the test drive in good faith, and told the story as he experienced it.

Did he use good judgment along the way? Not especially. In particular, decisions he made at a crucial juncture – when he recharged the Model S in Norwich, Conn., a stop forced by the unexpected loss of charge overnight – were certainly instrumental in this saga’s high-drama ending.

Sullivan claims she consulted with

“…Mr. Broder, Mr. Musk, two key Tesla employees, other Times journalists, the tow-truck driver and his dispatcher, and a Tesla owner in California, among others…I’ve also had a number of talks with my brother, a physician, car aficionado and Tesla fan, who has helped me balance what might have been a tendency to unconsciously side with a seasoned and respected journalist – my own “confirmation bias.”

Perhaps Ms. Sullivan’s brother could have been replaced by someone with an engineering or automotive background rather than a Tesla fan and car nut, who surely comes with his own set of biases and, in the case of the average car aficionado, opinions that are largely formed based on hearsay and a quick scan of a buff book while waiting in the CVS checkout line.

Also missing is one crucial element that most of you are aware of, but Sullivan seems ignorant of; the element of pressure from an OEM when testing a car or anything related to the car on a manufacturer-arranged drive. Tesla has operated some of the most tightly controlled testing protocols we’ve seen in some time (TTAC has yet to drive the car outside of a brief preview). If anything, invoking the Holy Cause of journalistic integrity would call for Sullivan and the NYT to push back against any interference or petulant PR campaign from Tesla and Elon Musk. In the wake of Jayson Blair and Judith Miller, the Grey Lady is doubtlessly sensitive to claims of journalistic incompetence – or worse. But if Sullivan had consulted someone besides a few Tesla employees and her brother, this crucial element may have been brought to the surface, and a different tone may have been adopted.



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Plus ça Charge: Electric Touring Sat, 16 Feb 2013 20:59:50 +0000

Note the date of publication is 1914, not 2013

While following the he said he said back and forth between the New York Time’s James Broder and Tesla’s Elon Musk, over Broder’s unsuccessful drive from New York to Boston in a Tesla Model S, it seemed to me that one important factor affecting consumer acceptance of EVs is being obscured by all the Sturm und Drang of the NYT and Musk both working this story for maximum bad publicity for their respectless enterprises. That factor, ironically, is why Tesla set up the media road trips in the first place, the fact that EVs will need a publicly accessible charging infrastructure if they are going to be seen as anything other than town cars. The Model S press trips from DC to Beantown were supposed to demonstrate Tesla’s expanding network of locations equipped with Tesla’s “Supercharger” quick charging stations.

That need for public charging stations has been obscured by other issues in the discussion of electric cars, which it seems to me have been focused more on range than anything else. Tesla is not unwise to create it’s own charging infrastructure for its customers because the simple fact is that if you could recharge an EV as quickly and as conveniently as you can refuel a gasoline or diesel powered vehicle, and if you could find a charging station within your EV’s range, range becomes more of a non issue. Let’s face it, how many owners of gasoline cars really consider range on a single tank of gas when buying a new car? As long as you can get ~300 miles between fill ups, the vast majority of car consumers don’t really care about range. Gas mileage yes, but I’d bet that total range is only important to a minority of gas/diesel drivers.

This is nothing new. Like 3D photography and movies, this is not the first go-round with EVs. Electric cars and were marketed more than a century ago, at the dawn of the automotive age and soon enough electric car companies, electric component makers, trade organizations, tire and battery companies, and publishers rushed in to help EV owners find a charge.

The EV side of the auto industry understood that drivers of EVs would need public charging facilities at the same time that it promoted electric cars as suitable for touring. The Electric Vehicle Association of America even published a charging station guide to the Lincoln Highway, America’s first attempt at a coast to coast road. Since the longest distance between charging stations was about 120 miles, well beyond the range of any contemporary electric car, it’s doubtful than any early electric automobilists completed the entire route, but the EV industry did what it could to dispel the image that electric cars could not be taken on long trips. Tesla is doing the same today.

The fact that the Electric Vehicle Association agreed on a standard charging plug that was used by most EV makers made things a little easier. In the photo above, the charging port on a 1922 Milburn Light Electric is being held open so you can see the terminals in the photo above. The photo below shows a similar charging port, though closed, on a 1914 Detroit Electric runabout.

By 1912, the Detroit Electric Car company, the most successful of the first wave of EV makers (it has only been in the past year that the Nissan Leaf surpassed the Detroit Electric as the most successful EV ever, in terms of total sales) had both standalone charging garages as well as combined sales branches and charging stations in Detroit, Manhattan, Chicago , Boston, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Cleveland, Evanston, Kansas City, and Minneapolis.

In 1914, the New York Electric Vehicle Association, in conjunction with Automobile Blue Books started publishing route guides for “electric touring”, that mapped the locations of charging stations and provided suggested touring routes.

The guide was updated, apparently annually. In an emergency, drivers of electric cars could get a charge from electric streetcar or trolley wiring – as this Tom Swift story relates.

While General Electric sold  mercury arc rectifier based residential chargers to EV owners, the majority of the more than 14,000 chargers that GE sold a century ago were sold to public facilities like hotels and parking garages.

The Exide battery company, perhaps the major EV battery maker in the early days of the automobile, set up its own storage and charging garage (many city dwellers didn’t have residential parking for their cars) and “battery depot” in New York City.

In addition to public charging facilities, taxicab companies that operated electric cabs set up their own charging garages and had chargers installed for their drivers’ use at hotels they serviced.

As was shown 100 years ago, broadscale consumer acceptance of electric cars needs a publicly accessible charging infrastructure. It’s unfortunate that the war of words between Mr. Musk and the New York Times is obscuring rather than illustrating that need.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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The Truth About Tesla’s Charging Stations Tue, 25 Sep 2012 16:52:46 +0000

Tesla has officially launched their long-awaited “Supercharging” network last night to a star-studded crowd in Southern California. (We assume it was star-studded since our invitation got lost in the mail.) The EV network promises to enable Model S and Model X owners to charge 150 miles of range in 30 minutes. What about your Roadster? Sorry, you aren’t invited to this charging party. Have a Tesla and a LEAF? You’ll have to be satisfied with separate but equal charging facilities as the Tesla proprietary charging connector restricts access to Tesla shoppers only. Is this class warfare or do we parallel the computer industry where connectors come and go with the seasons?

What’s the big deal with charging? Let’s go over the Model S’s charging time chart and you’ll understand. From a regular 120V wall outlet the Model S will gain 4-5 miles per hour of charging and consumes about the same amount of power as a space heater. Charging at 41 amps, the car gains 31 miles per hour and consumes as much power as TWO average electric clothes dryers. Charging at 81 amps (a service that many homes with older wiring or smaller services cannot support) the Model S gains 62 miles an hour and consumes more power than an average home’s A/C, dryer, washer, stove, oven, lights and small appliances put together. With a range of 300 miles and a 10 hour charge time at the 41A rate, it’s easy to see why fast charging stations are appealing. Tesla’s Supercharger’s specs are yet to be revealed, but by the numbers it is apparent the system is delivering a massive 90kWh charge which is likely 440V DC at around 200A. An hour of charging at that rate is 70% of the power that my home uses in an entire month.

Is this a Tesla issue? No, it’s an EV issue. If you expect your EV to drive like a regular car, modern EVs are a delight. If you expect your EV to refuel like a regular car, we’ve hit a snag. But it’s more complex than that, you see, only three of the four Model S trims support DC fast charging and the only other EVs on the market with a DC charge port are the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Except they don’t use the same connector or the same standard. Oops. Adding more complications to the mix are the EVs with no DC charge connector like the RAV4 EV, Volt, Prius Plug-In, Accord Plug-In, Focus, Active E and Coda while the new Chevy Spark is rumored to début a third standard: the SAE combo plug.

Of course, if you think of your car like you think of your cell phone, this makes sense as the phone you bought last year wont use the same charger as the phone you buy today. If you think of this in car terms however it’s like buying a new car and finding out that most of the gas stations have a nozzle that won’t fit your car.

Back to those Tesla charging stations. Tesla opened the first four in Southern California and announced two more stations will go online in October with stations in Las Vegas, Northern California and Oregon by summer 2013 with the 100 station network being complete by 2015. If that network sounds familiar then it should, because the recent settlement in the California vs NRG lawsuit means there will be 200 new CHAdeMO stations in California over the same time frame in addition to the 8 already installed and the 75 commercial stations planned or under construction. It isn’t just California on the CHAdeMO bandwagon however, the Department of Energy claims there are over 113 CHAdeMO stations in the USA and a 1,200+ unit installed base in Japan.

What does this mean to Tesla owners? Until Tesla creates a CHAdeMO to Tesla charging adapter cable (much like they have a J1772 to Tesla cable for use at public AC charging stations), Tesla owners will be restricted to regular AC charging or the smaller Tesla only charging network. On the flip side, Tesla is promising the Tesla charging stations will be free to Tesla owners, positioned next to trendy restaurants and you won’t have to mix with the Leaf owning rabble. You can also feel superior because Tesla’s newer standard charges 80% faster than the 50kWh CHAdeMO connector.

What does this mean to LEAF and i-MiEV owners? It means this is just the beginning of a standards battle. If you bought an EV before this raft of new J1772-connector-toting models, you know what I’m talking about. While CHAdeMO has the lead now, depending on what standard the rest of the industry supports this could change rapidly.

What about the rest of us? If we continue to build more battery electric vehicles and continue to develop batteries that are more and more power dense, you can expect even the snazzy Tesla charging connector to be outdated on a few years. If you expect an EV SUV to deliver 300 miles of electric range, AWD, decent performance, mild off-road ability and Range Rover quality luxury trappings, then expect it to have a battery that is 50-100% larger than the Model S’ massive 85kWh pack. This means you have to either take all the charging rates and nearly double them, or you have to develop a charging method that charges 50-100% faster to keep the same performance.

Of course, just like LEAF owners experience battery degradation caused by repeated use of DC quick charge stations, Tesla owners should be mindful that batteries don’t last forever and the faster you charge them the shorter their life will be.


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Capsule Review: Tesla Model S Mon, 20 Aug 2012 13:00:48 +0000

What good is a twenty-minute test drive?

Well, when most sources are getting a ten minute test drive, a twenty-minute one is twice as good. The problem, of course, is that range is as critical to an electric car as tensile strength is to parachutes; it’s the difference between a safe arrival and a harrowing trip. Without a genuine understanding of the Tesla’s range, we can’t say for sure whether it’s a great car or not.

That doesn’t mean we can’t pass along what we did learn during those twenty minutes.

We can start with the physical envelope of the car, which is similar to that of a Jaguar XF. The looks are Jaguaresque as well. Franz von Holzhausen, the man responsible for styling the big Tesla, also penned the Solstice/Sky twins for General Motors. Like those ill-fated droptops, the Model S has a packaging issue; in this case, it’s rear headroom, which is sacrificed to the false god of faux-coupe styling. It’s a shame, because rear legroom is solid and with no central tunnel it might be possible for a third person to be reasonably comfortable in the middle seat. Tesla reps tell us that the panoramic roof, available as an option, actually adds an inch of headroom, but our car came without it, or the rear jump seats and their Fifty Shades of Grey-esque five point harnesses.

The Tesla Roadster was universally panned for interior quality. In the case of the Roadster, which was based on the pre-Bahar Lotus Elise, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The Model S, by contrast, is a significant leap forward. The interior design is unique and distinctive without straying too far from the interior template set by the E65 BMW and its imitative successors. The only parts-bin contribution we recognized was the Mercedes-Benz column shifter. Although there was a loose trim piece on a door, this was an early series production car and overall the interior meets the expectations of this market.

Since Tesla expects to reach out to the tech-savvy crowd, they’ve gone through the trouble of providing what looks like an iPad class-leading center display. It’s Internet-enabled and it’s big enough to read your favorite website site — or, if that doesn’t load, you can check out TTAC, as seen below. If you aren’t interested in looking at photographs of rope bondage, and want to do unmentionable things like change the temperature or radio station, it’s all done through the giant touch screen, and it works fairly well. How it will hold up in a decade’s time is perhaps the second most interesting variable.

Naturally, we don’t recommend that you surf and drive, particularly when operating a vehicle with this kind of power. Although the Model S won’t keep up with the warp drive Tesla Roadster Sport, it’s fast enough. The kind of “electric-motor thrust” often found in reviews of turbocharged German luxury sedans is provided here by an actual electric motor. Our test variant was the most powerful one; however, due to some misdeeds by other participants in this event we were hard-limited to 80 miles per hour. The Model S reaches that in a hurry, no sweat. As you’d expect from an electric vehicle, the power delivery is linear and muscular. There’s no sportbike-esque exhilaration like you’d find in the Roadster, but it’s plenty quick, launching forward with the same urgency of a Porsche Panamera. The Porker relies on all-wheel drive and the big  V8 to launch away from a light; in the Model S, that sensation of an aircraft carrier catapult launch is magnified. The power is always available right now in a way that no gasoline car can match. The flat-and-straight nature of our Missisauga, Ontario test venue prohibited us from verifying claims of totally flat, telepathic cornering and whatever superlatives have been heaped on this car. Unlike the Roadster, the Model S won’t be expected to corner like a go-kart or any of the things people typically have in mind when they say something corners like a go-kart.

The Model S is spacious, and quick, and stylish, and it’s frankly a wonder that it got built at all in an era when the engineering, design, assembly, and distribution of a motor vehicle happens at a scale that would impress the architects of the Manhattan Project. Until the range question is answered, however, it’s impossible to know whether this Manhattan Project produced a vehicle that is the bomb… or just a bomb, period.

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